John F. Kerry photo

Remarks at Xenia High School in Xenia, Ohio

October 16, 2004

It's great to be here with all of you at Xenia High School.

For the past two years, I've traveled across America meeting people just like you – people who love their families, love their country, and are determined to build a better life for their kids. But while they're working hard and doing everything right, they can't get ahead – they can barely even stay in place – because today's economy is leaving them behind.

In the past four years, we've lost 1.6 million private sector jobs. In Ohio alone we've lost 237,000 jobs – 173,000 of them in manufacturing. And the jobs we're creating today pay $9,000 less than the ones we've lost. So we're losing good jobs and replacing them with ones that don't pay the bills. And, as we learned just yesterday, consumer confidence is plunging as Americans become more and more worried about the state of our economy.

And you know what the Bush Administration says to all this? Just this week, President Bush's Treasury Secretary, John Snow, came right here to Ohio – a state with some of the worst job losses in America – and stated that job losses are nothing but a "myth." It's right here, on the front page of the Findlay Courier. Right next to a column about how many of our jobs pay so little that almost 39 million Americans – 20 million of them children – can barely afford things like food and housing.

Well I've got a message for our president. Mr. President, the Americans who have lost jobs on your watch are not "myths," they are middle class families – and for four years, you've turned your back on them. And on November 2nd, the workers I've met here in Ohio are going to show George Bush that they won't stand for being "Snowed" any more.

George Bush just doesn't get it. Jobs are being shipped overseas – and his Administration says outsourcing is good for us. He's the first president to lose jobs in 72 years – and they say it's time to celebrate. Wages are falling, costs are rising – and they tell us, hey, don't worry, this is the best economy of our lifetime!

When it comes to reality, George Bush has a simple strategy: Ignore it, deny it, then try to hide it.

We see it in Iraq, where things are getting worse each week with more violence, more chaos, more killings. We've lost more than 1,000 brave men and women – and more than 7,000 have been wounded. But George Bush says we're making progress in Iraq.

We saw it with health care, when we learned that there was a severe shortage of flu vaccines this season. The story of how this happened is a troubling one.

Way back in 2001, our government was warned that our system was vulnerable to vaccine shortages. That was a red flag.

In June 2003, US health regulators discovered quality control problems at one of the two factories that produces the flu vaccine. That was another red flag.

Then, in August of this year, the manufacturer notified the Bush Administration that there were serious contamination problems in 6 to 8 million of their flu vaccines. That was yet another red flag.

Then, in October of this year, British regulators suspended the company's license. And only then, finally, did we go in to inspect the factory. But it was too late. And now, because of this Administration's failure of leadership and judgment – because of their failure to act – we've got a shortfall of up to 48 million flu vaccines.

So what's happening with the flu vaccine is a perfect example of everything that's wrong with this President.

The production of the vaccine was sent to a factory overseas...sounds like George Bush's jobs plan.

He failed to adequately monitor the vaccine company, even after a year of warning signs that something was wrong, and even after years of warnings that we were vulnerable to shortages...sounds like his policy on Enron and Halliburton.

Now he tells healthy Americans not to get their flu shots...sounds like his health care plan – pray you don't get sick.

Millions of Americans – including seniors and children – won't be able to get a flu shot this year. We've got people standing in lines for hours on end – some of them in their seventies and eighties – hoping to be one of the lucky ones. And every day, our health care workers struggle to make what could be life or death decisions about who will get a shot.

Then in the debate this past week, George Bush said "We're working with Canada us realize the vaccine necessary to make sure our citizens have got flu vaccinations during this upcoming season." Well, I don't know about you, but I think that sure sounds odd coming from a President who's banned importing safe, effective, and affordable drugs from Canada. And the next day, Bush's own Secretary of Health even admitted that getting FDA approval in time for this year's flu season was "doubtful."

And believe it or not, just like with Iraq, just like with the economy, a top Bush Administration official is now saying that even with the benefit of hindsight, the Administration wouldn't have done anything differently.

It's just business as usual with George W. Bush: Ignore it, deny it, then try to hide it. And when confronted with a mistake, try and explain things away.

Well that's not going to cut it. When I'm President, we're going to have a real strategy to deal with crises like these. My running mate, John Edwards, called for national leadership on this issue nearly a year ago. Back in December of 2003, he spoke out about the importance of having enough flu vaccine and having a good strategy for responding to outbreaks. And that's exactly what's we're going to provide. We'll take responsibility for this. We'll work with companies both here and abroad to make sure we've got a safety net – and we'll ensure that there are enough vaccines to keep our families healthy.

And when it comes to jobs and our economy, in just 17 days, on November 2nd, we'll give America a fresh start. Because that's the day when things are going to change in America. That's the day when we're going to choose to put the middle class first, and build an economy that lifts all Americans.

We're going to create jobs. We'll do it by closing the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas – and rewarding companies that create and keep them here in the United States of America.

We're going to give middle class families tax relief to help them ease the squeeze between higher costs and lower wages. We'll give parents a $1,000 tax credit to help pay for child care. And we'll give young people a tax break on up to $4,000 in tuition for all four years of college.

Finally, we'll help families afford quality health care by making it easier for businesses to insure their workers, by lowering prescription drug costs, and by giving every American access to the same plan that members of Congress get.

Today, America is ready to leave the failed policies of the past behind, and look to the future with the hope and optimism that says that America can always do better. We just need to come together as one America and believe in ourselves. And with your help, we will.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America. And now I'd be happy to take some of your questions.

John F. Kerry, Remarks at Xenia High School in Xenia, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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